What Is BuildTak?
BuildTak is a brand that was “created and developed by tinkerers at heart” who are “dedicated to eliminating some of the hassles of 3D printing,” according to their website. They were specifically inspired by the struggles their own team members faced with first layer adhesion— or lack thereof, as they point out.
This led to their first and most well-known product, the BuildTak 3D printing surface. This product is a heat resistant, rigid, specially textured plastic sheet that adheres to the bare print bed or build plate.
There are three main elements to BuildTak that allegedly resolve the primary issues with 3D printing:
- Adhesion – The makers of BuildTak claim that it “creates an optimal bond between the 3D printed object and build surface,” which solves adhesion issues and creates a smooth and stable first layer.
- Build Duration – They claim that this “maximizes the chances your object will be held in place for the duration of the of the print,” which notably does not include a blanket promise or guarantee of adhesion.
- Removal – After the printing is complete, BuildTak “[allows] for clean and easy removal of the object from the build surface,” preserving the build and avoiding damage post-print.
The BuildTak 3D printing surface is therefore presented as an “all-in-one” solution that resolves the issues discussed above. Though the website lists no guarantees, there have been reports of the company providing replacements or additional samples to users in response to complaints.
What Makes BuildTak Better?
Some of the improvements BuildTak offers include:
- Bed parameters don’t need to be adjusted when printing with BuildTak, even if filaments are switched.
- It’s the ideal printing surface for FDM 3D printers and works with a wide range of filaments, including PLA, ABS, HIPS, PET+, brick, and wood.
- A layer of washable glue on the BuildTak surface allows FDM 3D Printers to work with nylon and t-glase (PETT) filaments, too.
- BuildTak can be used for consecutive builds without needing to change out the printing surface
- It holds tight to the project, ensuring the build will hold in place throughout the print and be able to be removed easily.
BuildTak Specifications and Cost
BuildTak sheets can be purchased in white or black and as singles or in packs of five, 10, and 25. Prices start as low as approximately $10 for single 8″ x 8″ sheets and rise from there, up to nearly $100 for the largest dimensions. There are 30 currently available dimension options, ranging from 4.33″ diameters for MP Mini Deltas to 19.7″ x 19.7″ for the S5.
There is no specific information on BuildTak sheets and customization options. However, customized FlexPlate systems are available. The website states that this option is reserved for 3D printer manufacturers, but does go on to say that they’ll put a new size into production if enough requests are received.
For this purpose, they recommend encouraging members of groups or forums to reach out en masse with size requests.
More Products in the BuildTak Line
Since introducing the original BuildTak 3D printing surface, they’ve expanded their line to include products such as:
- BuildTak Nylon+ – These are the latest evolution of BuildTak build surfaces, specifically designed for Nylon and PETT filaments, and equipped with the no-cleanup BuildTak original adhesive.
- FlexPlate System – This package includes one BuildTak sheet, one FlexPlate, and one Magnetic Mounting Base.
- BuildTak Spatula – This tool was developed for the purpose of removing 3D prints from the print bed; it’s made with a stainless steel blade and a thin front edge specifically designed to work with BuildTak materials.
- Pocket Tool – An all-in-one 3D printing tool, which includes Allen wrenches, nozzle cleaners, a hex key, a brass wire brush, and even a bottle opener that users to fix, clean, and maintain their 3D printers with ease.
Like the original BuildTak surface, all of these products are designed to mitigate common issues that face people who often use 3D printing.
More specifically, each of these products addresses some of the complaints against BuildTak. For example, the Nylon+ sheets are specifically designed for filaments that the original has trouble with, while the Spatula tool helps remove builds that are stuck to the BuildTak sheet.
Adhesion Issues and BuildTak
As stated on their website, BuildTak was created with the intention of solving adhesion issues that every 3D printer has faced at some time. Anyone who has owned a printer is likely familiar with the tedious task of trying to get objects to stick to the surface throughout the build. This is especially difficult for builds with a large contract patch or first layers with minimal contact.
Common issues include builds warping, curling, popping loose, and even falling over in some notable instances. The result is the same: a ruined build that users just can’t seem to make stick to the print bed.
How Users Dealt with Adhesion Issues
The two most common solutions to this issue are tape and a slurry solution:
- Tape – Users can cover the print bed in Kapton tape, painter’s tape, or another type of tape to give the print something to adhere to. However, tape strips must be precisely applied so that edges don’t overlap and must be reapplied after each build.
- ABS Slurry – This colloquial term refers to a mix of ground-up ABS filament dissolved in acetone, which produces an effective (albeit messy) adhesion solution for the print bed. It must also be regularly reapplied.
Other fixes to the adhesion issue include Elmer’s glue and hairspray, among many other DIY alternatives.
A heated glass plate was introduced to some printers, which significantly improves adhesion, but these are generally specific to high-end printers and are not yet an industry (or affordable) standard. Unheated acrylic print beds are still common types despite the increasing popularity of 3D printing.
How BuildTak Tackles Adhesion Issues
The BuildTak printing surface purports to resolve adhesion issues by providing a versatile and durable product that applies in seconds and can be used for many builds, no matter what filament is being used or what the bed parameters are.
How to Use BuildTak
Using BuildTak is a fairly straightforward process that most users have next to no trouble with. It’s compatible with both heated and non-heated build plates and comes in a wide variety of dimensions to ensure the best fit.
To apply and use BuildTak, simply follow the steps below:
- Clean the build plate to remove any dust, grime, or other accumulated debris. Let the build plate dry completely before adding the BuildTak.
- Remove the adhesive backing on the BuildTak and place it on the build plate. It’s recommended to do so in small increments and to smooth the surface out as you apply it.
- Once applied, smooth the BuildTak out to ensure all air bubbles (if any) are removed; a spatula, credit card, or other straight-edged material will work for this.
- If the BuildTak was applied to a removable plate, re-level the plate prior to printing to ensure a smooth build.
After these simple steps, users can print as they see fit.
It’s recommended to print test objects in order to “get a feel” for BuildTak and identify any issues early on in the printing process. Some users found a small amount of trial and error necessary, while others were able to immediately start printing without difficulty.
These steps are the same whether or not users have a removable print bed. Installation is more difficult if the print bed is not removable, but can still be accomplished.
Advantages of BuildTak
This printing surface is an alternative to the oft-used Kapton and masking tape materials as print bed covers for ABS and PLA. Though certainly cheaper, they also have several disadvantages.
Among the most frustrating is the fact that both materials require pre-treatment, can be difficult to install, are easily destroyed, and only last for a few builds. BuildTak alleges that their printing surface solves all of these issues and more.
Some of the primary advantages listed for BuildTak include:
- Easy Installation – BuildTak’s rigid design makes it easy to peel off the adhesive backing and apply it to a bare print bed or build plate.
- No Air Bubbles – The rigid design also makes it less susceptible to forming air bubbles beneath the surface; scrapers can be used to ensure there are no trapped bubbles without damaging the material.
- Dependable Hold – Objects stay on BuildTak for the duration of the build, with minimal to no curling or coming loose.
- Clean Release – Finished objects are easy to remove and cleanly pop off the printing surface, with significantly less prying or scraping needed; it’s even able to hold and easily release objects that are top-heavy or unable to stand on their own
- Durable Design – Because there is less overall damage to BuildTak via prying, scraping, or peeling, it can outlast the typical lifecycle of other printing surfaces.
- Multi-Use Surface – BuildTak works for both ABS, PLA, and many more filaments, so it’s not necessary to change the surface between builds.
- Seamless Removal – The BuildTak sheet is easily removed when a new one is needed; it comes off in one piece and leaves no residue behind.
The two advantages that users seem to value most are ease of use and durability. Using a one-piece printing surface that’s easily applied and removed saves time, especially for users who previously relied on surfaces like tape, which can be time-consuming to apply and must be redone for each build.
Build-Tak is Timesaving, Too
Because it can be reused for up to 250 hours of printing on a non-heated bed and up to 100 hours on a heated bed, BuildTak also saves users time, materials, and money in the long-term as well. This quality, durability, and reusability are what truly make BuildTak worth buying for most reviewers.
How long the BuildTak sheets last, and therefore how much time, materials, and money users save, depends on a variety of factors. BuildTak lists the following three primary indicators:
- The materials being printed
- The print settings
- The skill of the user
Regarding the materials specifically, PLA is the least abrasive material and will therefore likely lead to the longest-lasting print sheet. Conversely, materials like PC, ABS, PET, and PETG will wear the print sheets out faster and require replacing sooner rather than later.
BuildTak is one of the first commercial solutions to 3D printing adhesion issues. Though it does have several user-reported issues, the positive product reviews far outweigh negative ones and provide clear instructions and tips for how users can take advantage of this product to create long-lasting and quality builds
Review data was compiled from BuildTak’s website and Amazon.
- On their US website, BuildTak has eight reviews for their original printing surface that span 2014 to the present. All reviews are five stars, resulting in a solid five-star rating. On their EU website, they have six reviews ranging from two stars to five stars.
- On Amazon, they have over 400 international reviews that average 4.4 out of 5 stars, ranging from 2020 back to 2015; 68% of reviews are five-star, 20% are four-star, 4% are 3-star, and the remaining 9% are one- and two-star reviews.
Positive reviews touted the following:
- No first layer lift or curling – Users reported that they experienced no problems with first layer life or curling, even when testing builds with small radius corners, single-wall details, or low first layer contract surface.
- Smooth first layer/bottom – Because BuildTak is made from one piece of material, the bottom surfaces of printed materials are guaranteed to be perfectly smooth.
- Easy build removal – All builds reportedly removed with a clean “pop” and minimal surface flexing, no matter how long the builds lasted. Users reported clean removal from builds whose time ranged from a few minutes to 10 hours.
- Durability after multiple uses – Even after 80 builds, 100 hours, and six months of printing (each a measure from different reviews), users reported no wear and tear on the BuildTak surface.
- Superior alternative – Users reported that they are more satisfied with the BuildTak printing surface than previous materials, including hairspray, Kapton tape, ABS and acetone, and glue sticks.
However, there were also negative reviews.
Some of the most common complaints hit on these characteristics:
- High cost – Users agreed that BuildTak held up to the manufacturer’s promises and appeared to be of high-quality materials, but said that the high price of it was a barrier that prevented them from being a repeat customer.
- Adhesion works too well – Several users reported that the BuildTak material worked too well and that they ended up damaging the printing material trying to remove their builds from it.
- Difficulty applying the BuildTak – Some users experienced difficulty when trying to apply the BuildTak to their print bed or plate; they found the material unwieldy and hard to smooth out if air bubbles appeared.
- Trouble with certain filaments – As BuildTak itself admits, and several reviewers have pointed out, the printing surface struggles to hold onto nylon and PETT, filaments that are known for their adhesion issues.
- Warping from uneven cooling – BuildTak has many uses but can’t replace a heated bed, which can lead to printed objects having a warped first layer or bottom.
- Trial and error requirements – Though there are instructions and tutorials available, a number of reviewers found that trial and error was required to learn how to effectively use BuildTak, which they felt was a waste of material, time, and money.
BuildTak does encourage users with issues to reach out. Users may also be able to find solutions to their issues on the website’s Support section. For example, for prints that are sticking too well, BuildTak suggests it may be because the extruder nozzle is too close to the printing sheet. They suggest increasing the nozzle height slightly and re-levelling the print bed.
Tips and Tricks For Using BuildTak
Users do offer several tips that make using the BuildTak material easier, though these aren’t necessarily required to successfully build:
- Clean the surface. Use isopropyl alcohol wipes between each build (not acetone, as this will ruin the material).
- Keep the nozzle away from the BuildTak surface. Nozzles that are too close often result in burnt spots and holes; 0.1 – 0.2 mm is the recommended distance.
- Move the builds or parts around, if possible. Especially with small builds, this helps the print bed to wear evenly.
- Allow it to cool. To preserve the adhesive and remove printed objects easily, it’s best to let the BuildTak cool down to room temperature.
- Grab a spatula. For stuck projects, using a round-edged spatula to remove them from the build platform preserves the printed object and the printing surface.
- Don’t pull upward. Avoid using an upward prying motion when removing new builds, as this can create stress on the surface area of the BuildTak sheet.
- Research, research, research. When in doubt, it’s best to go online and research your issue or planned build. This way, you can prepare accordingly and make sure your future builds go as smoothly as possible.
Several positive reviews discussed the users’ experiences as they experimented with BuildTak. They left some specific instructions on how to get the best results and overall seemed pleased with their builds. All left positive reviews that were at least four stars.
- Do not run the auto-level with a hot nozzle – this will leave dimples in the material.
- Level the bed, using a piece of cardstock to increase the gap.
- Slowly remove prints because they can be stuck on pretty tight. Allow them to cool down, but not below 40 degrees F.
- When experimenting, place the build to the side or in a corner. This preserves the middle of the sheet for future builds when the settings are just right, such as the nozzle height and temperature.
- Use Kapton tape as a supplemental and precautionary measure. Place it around the printer’s homing position prevents the hot-end from burning the BuildTak sheet if the z-axis is not calibrated correctly.
Alternatives to BuildTak
As with most products, BuildTak is not the only one of its kind currently available on the market. Currently, there are two main competitors:
- Printing on glass – Not many printers come with a glass print bed, but some users choose to add one to their 3D printing setup.
- Easy-Peelzy – Easy-Peelzy is a 3D printing surface that performs the same adhesion functions as BuildTak. According to their website, the Easy-Peelzy platform “includes two parts: the base layer that sticks to your existing 3D printer bed, and a top layer that snaps to the base layer.” The top layer has a polymer on it so that all PLA and PLA-based filaments bond to it.
- Anycubic Ultrabase – The Anycubic Ultrabase, which is a printer platform that doubles as an adhesion solution and heat bed. Their website claims it provides excellent adhesion, with an “Ultrabase covered by microporous coating, [which] shows strong adhesion during printing. Easy to take off models by hand or with a little help from the scrapper for very large models.”
How Printing on Glass Compares to BuildTak
With its incredibly smooth, flat surface, glass allows for unmatchable precision in layering. That smooth surface also gives your project a super-smooth surface – it doesn’t have a texture to pass on to your print.
Glass also cleans up well – and it’s really easy to remove your print. But, of course, glass may need some adhesion assistance and it can also break and crack.
Glass 3D print plates are also relatively inexpensive and easy to find – and most users love them. With 82% of 92 Amazon reviewers scoring it a solid 5. Lower scores hit on the difficulty to find the correct size, trouble with adhesion and even getting a warped piece of glass.
How Does Easy-Peelzy Measure Up to BuildTak?
Out of 37 reviews on their website, Easy-Peelzy has a cumulative score of four and a half out of five stars, spanning from the present back to 2017. Just like BuildTak, users appreciated its durability and ease of use.
- Less variety. Whereas BuildTak offers dozens of dimensions and different shapes and colors, Easy-Peelzy only offers four dimension options.
- Pricing. The listed prices may initially seem high until users realize that the prices are in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) and must be converted to USD. Once converted, prices are comparable.
For example, an 8″ x 8″ (20 cm) of Easy-Peelzy printing material is $110.00 HKD, roughly $15.00 USD, while the same size of printing material from BuildTak is roughly $10.00.
How Does UltraBase Stand Up to BuildTak?
Currently, the Ultrabase has one listed review on its website, which is five-star but currently inaccessible for website visitors to read. But nearly 300 reviews on Amazon give it a solid four-star rating out of five; 66% of all ratings are five-star, 7% are four-star, 7% are three-star, only 5% are two-star, and 15% are one-star.
- UltraBase doesn’t support auto leveling.
- Ultrabase is more expensive than BuildTak and Easy-Peelzy.
- But it is dual function. Ultrabase also doubles as a heat bed and/ or replacement glass bed, while the other two only provide adhesion support.
Is BuildTak Worth It?
BuildTak has robust support of reviewers, both on its main website and on the websites of third-party sellers.
The majority are five-star reviews that laud BuildTak’s abilities and agree that its promise to “[eliminate] some of the hassles of 3D printing” holds true.
- Adhesion is no longer a problem
- Users are able to prepare plates and beds in a fraction of the time it would take them using tape or other DIY methods.
- BuildTak is sturdy and lasts through many hours of printing.
Despite this, BuildTak does have disadvantages, and negative feedback has been reported. This product cannot replace a heated bed and doesn’t work with all filament types, especially those that are notoriously difficult to print with. In some cases, including this scenario, users said they had to add a layer of tape on top of the BuildTak surface, thus negating its intended use.
For users that aren’t a fan of BuildTak, there are other options commercially available. These may be a better fit for reviewers for whom the price point prevented them from becoming a repeat buyer. However, they should be prepared to compromise with regard to available options and dimensions.
By and large, users were more than satisfied with BuildTak as long as they followed all instructions and carefully reviewed the printer settings before beginning their build. Though admittedly tedious at times, they had consistently successful results that produced higher quality builds.
If you’re struggling with keeping your builds adhered to the plate or bed, it may be worth it to invest in a test swatch of BuildTak and see if it’s right for you.